ROADS on Icy Worlds Companion Course

Welcome to the NESSP Student Challenge companion course.  The 2021/22 version represents the second iteration of this Student Challenge Companion Course. This course is organized around the guiding question “How can we use experiments, models, and rehearsals here on Earth to understand other solar system objects and plan a successful mission to Icy Worlds?” and is tied to this year’s Student Challenge target missions to icy worlds such as Europa and Enceledus.  

How to Use These Lesson Plans

There are several ways to use these lesson plans to support your students or student groups.  You may choose to use these lesson plans to support student involvement in the 2021/2022 “Icy Worlds” student Challenge, which runs from October 2021 to April 2022.  Alternatively, you may select certain units or lessons that support your existing curriculum, or teach the lessons without having students formally participate in the challenge.  If you do register student teams for the “Icy Worlds” Challenge, equipment and technical support will be available to your teams.  You can learn more about the “Icy Worlds” Challenge here: 

Tips for Adapting to Remote or Blended Learning Environments

The “Icy Worlds” student challenge and the lesson plans here were designed to be completed by teams or classrooms of students working together in traditional, in-person learning environments (classrooms, after school clubs, scouting meetings, etc).  Whenever possible, we have provided tips for using each lesson in a remote learning environment. One general tip may be to have each student on a team be the “equipment manager” for one piece of equipment (robot, drone) and share their investigations and results with their team remotely.

Lesson Organization and Standards Alignment

Each lesson plan is organized around the “5E” instructional model.  In the 5E approach:

  • Students ENGAGE with their current thinking, new noticings, and questions about the phenomenon
  • Students EXPLORE the phenomenon, getting direct experience with it
  • Students EXPLAIN the phenomenon, focusing on new learning and changes in thinking
  • Students ELABORATE on their new learning by applying it to a new situation
  • Students EVALUATE their learning, formally or informally

More information about the 5E model can be found here: 

Each lesson also includes standards alignment information for the middle school and high school Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).  Many lessons also include information on alignment opportunities for:

  • CCSS Mathematics
  • CCSS English
  • Washington State Learning Standards in Computer Science
  • 21st Century Skills 

Standards alignment information has been summarized in two formats.  Each lesson plan contains detailed standards alignment information.

Updates to the Companion Course for 2021/22

If you used the “ROADS on Asteroids” Companion Course last year, then this year’s “ROADS on Icy Worlds” Companion Course will be familiar to you in many ways.  The overall structure of the units remains the same, but several new lessons have been added.  

Major content updates include:

  • New Target (Icy Worlds, with a focus on Jupiter’s moon Europa), changed from Asteroids last year
  • Unit 1, Lesson 4: Remote Sensing – New lesson added.
  • Unit 2, Lessons 1 and 2 – New lessons containing some activities from the previous year’s lesson “Geology Rocks” and several new activities about the density of liquids.
  • Unit 3, Lesson 3 – New investigation into the hardiness of yeast, including a new mission objective related to this lesson.
  • Last year’s “Follow the Carbon” lesson from Unit 3 was removed, along with the gas detectors.

Format/Logistical Updates:

  • Each lesson includes a “Before the Lesson” table that lists things teachers should do or consider before the lesson begins.  This includes material preparation, decisions about options to consider, and technology prep like file downloads.
  • In addition to detailed standards alignment information for each lesson, standards summaries are available in two formats 

Providing Feedback

We welcome your feedback on this work!  Please let us know what worked, what didn’t work, or how you adapted a lesson for your students.  Please note this is for quick lesson specific feedback!  Submit feedback by June 1, 2022, so that we can be sure to include it in next year’s companion course. 

Our evaluators, Horizon Research will reach out to educators for more extensive feedback.

Units in this Course:

Icy Worlds Unit 1: Mission Planning

How do we figure out where to go and what to do when planning a mission to another body in the solar system?

Icy Worlds Unit 2: Planetary Geology

What are the similarities and differences in how different planetary bodies are formed and change over time?

Icy Worlds Unit 3: Astrobiology

How can what we know about life on Earth guide us to other places in the solar system where life may exist now or may have existed in the past?

Icy Worlds Unit 4: Robotics and Drones

How can robotic systems aid in the exploration of our Earth and other solar system objects?